Volume 55, Number 9, September 2018
Of bunnies and bears A RATHER interesting phenomenon was witnessed on the second day of the recent York Coin Fair in July—lots of people in on day two! Those of you who have ever attended the second day of a two day fair will know that it isn’t the hotbed of activity you might find at 9.30am on day one. The serious collectors have all been in, the bargains, the “mistakes”, have all been picked over and the people you get through the door are generally the new collectors, the curious and those who just couldn’t make it the day before. The York show was no different in terms of who attended on the Saturday, what was different was the number of them who turned up! Saturdays are usually quiet from the off, and, if we are honest, are often just a countdown to packing up time but on this occasion there was a definite buzz in the room, and that buzz was created by lots of people asking if anyone had any Beatrix Potter coins . . . Whatever you think of the Royal Mint’s decision to roll out the “children’s classics” series of Potter-inspired 50p coins (initially to commemorate the author’s 150th anniversary but we are way beyond that now) and to follow it up with coins featuring the beloved Paddington Bear on his 60th birthday (you’ll note one celebrates a real person, the other a fictional character, does that mean anything?). There can be no denying that they have captured the imagination of a whole new generation of collectors. These collectors are different, they are young, they can even be female, and they are all hunting for that Mrs Tiggywinkle or Peter Rabbit that their collection is missing. But they have gone beyond that too—they aren’t just looking for the character coins, they are also hunting other modern rarities and there were people in the room at York asking for the 2009 Kew Gardens 50p, the dateless 20p, any of the Olympic series and the new “Best of British” 10p coins too. Now a traditional British coin show, with its trays of hammered gold, Celtic staters, Roman denarii, Gothic crowns or Saxon pennies may not be the ideal place to look for these new coins, but luckily there were one or two dealers who carried them at York and I hope that as the “newbies” went from table to table they managed to look at some of the other things on offer too and maybe, just maybe, they went home with more of an interest in the wider world of numismatics than they had before, because, if they didn’t I fear they may be lost to us sooner than we think. Why? Quite simply because the world of new issue collecting is, at the moment, an absolute minefield and those who enter it don’t always come out the other side. Every single week there seems to be yet another story in a newspaper or online about how “rare” something is or how much it is selling for. There seems to be no regard for the truth with these stories, or at least scant regard for reporting the truth behind the headlines. Instead sensationalism abounds with such ridiculous click bait as “is your £1 worth £5,000?” and a non-story below telling us how Joe Bloggs has listed his 2016 12-sided £1 on eBay for £5,000 because “they were issued in 2017 so this one has to be rare”. It’s the £2 coin with the necklace all over again. The trouble is, new collectors are starting to believe this rubbish. They are drawn in by the sensationalism and at York I was asked numerous times if I thought such and such 50p with a mintage in the millions was really worth the thousands being asked for it (spoiler alert: NO!!!). If we don’t nip such craziness in the bud, if we don’t do our best to educate these young collectors they will rapidly become disillusioned and they will be lost to us. When they buy their first Jemima Puddle-Duck for £100 from some shyster online and then try and sell it on when they find another in their change, only to be told they are going to lose £99.50, they aren’t going to blame crazycoinguy76 or whoever sold them the coin in the first place, they won’t blame themselves for their gullibility, no, they’ll blame the hobby, the trade, for trying to rip them off and they’ll not bother collecting anything more. The fact is, these new collectors need to be educated, they need to learn to read behind the headlines and find out more about the joy of collecting not the (non) profit to be had, and it is our duty as those in the know to do the educating. We at Token are doing our bit by producing a brand new publication aimed solely at the new issue and decimal collector (called Spend it? Save it? it will be available from September 5 in W. H. Smiths, Tesco, and other high street stores, if you know anyone who might be interested) and I urge you to do your bit too. Next time somebody tells you they’ve been collecting the Beatrix Potter coins (and that they have been paying over the odds) don’t dismiss them, don’t turn away, engage them instead, talk to them about their collection, tell them what they are doing right, steer them away from the mistakes and try to bring them into the fold. I know many of you feel this new wave of collecting is a far cry from “proper” numismatics but we all have to start somewhere and I for one am very pleased that we have new blood coming in to the hobby. It’s now our job to keep them interested.
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